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High Five: Paul Ward


From a pool-hopping muscleman in jeans to wildly far-spread signs for beanbags, the global CEO at Havas Studios explores a brilliant range of ads that made it into his list of all-time favourites

High Five: Paul Ward

LBB's Hannah Baines asked me to contribute to High Five and write a few words about my favourite ads over the years. I have to say, bloody hell, this was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. I sat down at the weekend, tried to take it seriously and really put some thought into it, but found myself quickly down a number of rabbit holes, arguing with myself about this versus that, cheetah versus 'heroin' baby, swimmer versus launderette etc etc. At some point on Sunday, I asked my wife what she thought about the shortlist I’d put together - she took one look at the list, tutted and told me to "get a fucking life". Brought to earth with the type of bump only Gwynn can administer, I decided to go with a swimmer, a cheetah, a public services announcement, a pillow and a bean bag. My work was done (or rather her work was done). So, the list...

Levi’s - 'Swimmer'

Agency: BBH London
Director: Tarsem Singh

This is why I wanted to work in advertising. I saw the ad either on TV or at the cinema, I can’t remember where. Wherever I was - and even though I was only 12 - I later told my mum I really wanted a pair of Levi’s. My mum explained that this was how advertising worked, and that there was a whole industry built to make you want to buy things you don’t need. I stopped thinking about how a lad from Whitley Bay could find career paths for spacemen, tailors or vets - and instead lasered in on advertising, specifically BBH.

Audi S4 Quattro - 'Nothing to Prove'

Agency: BBH London

With approval from my mum, I eventually joined BBH in 1996. Having moved from Newcastle, entering BBH in those days was like turning up at Real Madrid - it was the established best of the best. Living my own instalment of 'Goal', I spent most of my time wandering around Kingly Street wondering when they were going to realise their mistake and send me back up North. Thankfully they never found me, so I ended up staying at BBH for 17 (very quick) years. During my time there, I worked on a lot of Audi ads, the majority of which never included a picture of the car itself, which looking back was ballsy as hell. 'Cheetah' was my favourite, and I still work with one half of its creative team, Marc Hatfield, so life ain’t all bad!

Metro Trains Melbourne - 'Dumb Ways to Die'

Agency: McCann Melbourne

I left BBH in 2012 and moved to Australia. When I was getting ready to travel, I met a bloke who worked in the business and was in the process of returning from Australia to the UK. He said to me: “Australia is great, but you don’t look at the work over there, you look out of the window”. I’ve worked on Red Rooster, so can confirm that in so many ways he was absolutely right. However, I got to see some cracking Australian work too. The first came out pretty much just as I landed in Australia. I thought 'Dumb Ways to Die' was brilliant. I imagined the brief being bounced around McCann Melbourne, as about as welcome wanted as a turd in a swimming pool. But someone, somewhere had a crazy idea - and the crazy client loved it - and the world’s most shared PSA was born. 325 million people have since watched it online. I am not sure how many of them live in Melbourne and travel on their trains, but that’s the kind of detail that we advertising people tend not to care about.

Tontine Pillows - 'Change By Date'

Agency: Happy Soldiers

This isn’t an ad, it’s better than that. Happy Soldiers won the Tontine brief to sell more of their pillows, and during a conversation with the very passionate owner of the business, they heard how people kept pillows for way longer than they should. Saddled with a very small budget, rather than trying to make a good TV idea cheaply and badly (which agencies do a lot), they instead decided to change the idea for a better one. In date stamping a 'change by' date on every pillow, they brought a bit of jeopardy to your every day life - every time you swapped the pillowcase, the date loomed ever closer. I thought it was genius and quickly wanted to get to know John and Ben from Happy Soldiers, who, due to all of the awards they were winning, were indeed both very happy soldiers. Sadly their agency didn’t last as long as a lot of the pillows they sold, but they made their mark and are still kicking about, no doubt still knocking out loads of great work.

Anonymous - 'Bean Bag'

My favourite. I know, I know, I'm all over the place with my chronology, but I really wanted to end on this one. In 2008, I moved to India to work with Priti, Subhash and Partha to set up the BBH Mumbai office. We were a small start-up in a huge crazy city, and so I didn’t get out all that much, but when I did, I found the city so fascinating I just drove and drove and drove until I reached the sea in every direction. No matter where I went, I saw the same 'advert' written on walls, parked cars, everywhere. Depending on who you talked to, they sold either a shit loads of bean bags, were knocking out kilos upon kilos of hashish, or were the front for a high-class escort. I don’t really care what he / she did, I just loved their commitment and their steady-handed consistency of spray. I constantly bugged my Indian colleagues about it, but not for the first time (nor was it the last) they couldn’t understand why I was so excited about something seemingly so basic. I really did think it was great - and really do hope they’re now running a successful cricket franchise...

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Havas UK, Wed, 07 Dec 2022 12:30:05 GMT